Team Canada returns home with a medal of a different color for the first time in three years after losing the first-place game in the 4 Nations Cup to the United States, 3-2, in overtime.
Hilary Knight scored the game-winning goal off of a perfect cross-ice pass from Kelli Stack and beat Canada goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer to give the Americans the win, ending a comeback that had begun when Brianna Decker scored her second goal of the game, eliminating a one-goal lead for the Canadians. This is Team USA's sixth championship win for the 4 Nations Cup.
Canada had two leads in this game, 1-0 after Natalie Spooner redirected a shot by Marie-Philip Poulin off the point on the power play, then 2-1 when Meghan Agosta fired a lazer past Jessie Vetter late in the second period. But the Americans were tenacious, scoring both of their goals off of loose pucks or rebounds in front of the net, and then finally finding the winner on the rush just 36 seconds into extra time.
Even with the loss for the silver, the National Team is looking good overall. Meghan Agosta showed no signs of slowdown in her comeback to Team Canada, scoring twice in four games, and the Furies' Natalie Spooner was unstoppable, with three goals and an assist. The entire line of Spooner, Emily Clark and Sarah Nurse was especially noteworthy, creating the most opportunities both by utilizing speed and passing and by simply crashing the net and creating havoc.
Defenders Brigette Lacquette and Halli Krzyzaniak jumped into the play often and showed great poise and skill on both sides of the puck. In net, both Erica Howe and Maschmeyer had excellent performances, with Maschmeyer getting the bulk of playing time and remaining as collected as ever in net. As far as the Calgary Inferno are concerned, they have plenty to be proud of, as their forward corps showed up admirably, creating chances at will.
Canada faced a deep offensive team in the Americans and held them to three goals in each of the two games played against them, and similarly found ways to exploit the holes in two solid defenses in Sweden and Finland. Altogether, it's a good-looking future for Team Canada's National program, and I'm looking forward to the development of these players in the years to come.
Meanwhile, the CWHL gets back to business this weekend, and there's going to be one heck of a showdown between two undefeated teams -- the Inferno and Les Canadiennes de Montreal.
It's early in the season, of course, but it's not out of the question to see either of these two teams clinching first place before the year is over. Each has offensive depth beyond measure, with five players apiece in the top 15 in scoring right now; Elana Lovell and Kim Deschenes are neck and neck for the lead right now, with the Inferno rookie on top by a point (nine to Deschenes's eight). Each has allowed five or fewer goals in four games played thus far, and in fact each team's goaltenders are the top two in the league, Calgary's Delayne Brian with a .971 save percentage, Montreal's Charline Labonte just behind her with a .939. In fact, Labonte's sandwiched between Brian and 1-A Kathy Desjardins, who sits at No. 3 with a .927 in split time with Brian.
Essentially, these two teams are the same. So... who wins?
Last season's numbers during the regular season were dead even. The series was tied 3-3 with an exact even number of goals scored between the two teams (15 apiece). The home team took the best of each group of three games (this was before the league decided to do away with three-game weekends), and things began to go lopsided during the Clarkson Cup playoffs when Montreal's offense scored six goals in two games, and Labonte stonewalled Calgary's best shooters to preserve a championship berth.
This isn't the same Inferno team -- their offense has gotten even better and both Brian and Desjardins have looked solid -- but there is something to consider in that this is their first real test. The Blades spent much of the four games played against Calgary in their own zone trying to fend off a relentless offensive attack. This weekend could end up being more of a staring contest, and we all know how those end up: the one who blinks first... well, loses.
We'll see what happens Saturday night as the puck drops at Winsport to kick off the weekend. Saturday's game is being held at 6:15 p.m. Mountain (8:15 Eastern), while Sunday's game will be at 11:15 a.m. (1:15 p.m. Eastern). Both games will be at Joan Snyder Rink.
Catch Saturday's game on live streaming provided by the CWHL, CWHL Live. For $19.95 CAD (about $16 USD), fans can watch 32 games the entire season, the most ever provided by the league's streaming service. You can also listen to this weekend's games (as well as all Inferno home games) for free. Schedule and link to audio here.